Health Records: Patient access
Am I required to give a patient a copy of their prescription?
You are required by both State legislation and the Medicare Common Form of Undertaking to provide a copy of a patient's script if they request it. For contact lenses, that should be at the completion of the fitting process and any trial period. If the script is not current, you still need to provide it. In that case, we recommend you mark it EXPIRED: FOR INFORMATION ONLY. Optometry Victoria recommends you do not charge for this. Under the Health Records Act, there are regulatory limits as to the amounts that can be charged for providing copies of health information.
How long do I need to keep a copy of my patients' records?
Records must be kept for seven years following the patient’s last visit to that practice. For children (under 18), the record needs to be kept until the patient is 25 years old. After that, the file can be destroyed e.g. by shredding, but you need to keep a record of the date of destruction of the file, the period it related to and the patient’s name.
Our professional indemnity insurers recommend that it is good practice to keep the records for a period of seven years dating from the last contact you had with that patient (this may be a different and more recent date to the date you last saw the patient in the practice).
What if I sell my practice?
If you sell your practice it may be an option to include the patient records as part of that process, in which case the records are then held by the new owner. If you retain the records yourself, you still need to comply with the Health Records Act. The records need to be stored somewhere secure. You need to have clear arrangements in place so that former patients are able to obtain access to their records as provided for under the law, in a timely manner. Some optometrists, e.g. set up a contact address to receive emails from former patients about records access.
Optometrists and statutory declarations
You may occasionally be asked whether you are able to witness Statutory Declarations. A Statutory Declaration is a written statement declared to be true in the presence of an authorised witness. Statutory Declarations may relate to matters of either Commonwealth or State jurisdiction.
If you are asked to sign a Stat Dec you need to know whether it relates to a Commonwealth or a Victorian issue. The form will state at the top which jurisdiction the Statutory Declaration relates to: Commonwealth of Australia or State of Victoria.
Optometrists ARE AUTHORISED to witness Commonwealth Statutory Declarations. For further information on signing Commonwealth statutory declarations go to www.ag.gov.au/statdec
Optometrists ARE NOT AUTHORISED to witness Victorian Statutory Declarations.
If you are not certain as to whether you are the right person to witness or sign, you should seek clarification.
Authorised witness for licenses
If, in your capacity as an optometrist, you are asked to witness other forms (e.g., for university applications), you should make sure you are an acceptable witness. Often, these forms will explain who is authorised to witness or certify the documents. If in doubt, check with the institution or organisation, or you can contact Optometry Victoria.